Tracking Transnational Terrorist Resourcing Nodes and Networks


Christian Leuprecht, Arthur Cockfield, Pam Simpson, Maseeh Haseeb

This study is the first comprehensive effort to collect, code, compare, and analyze all available open source data on transnational terrorist financing networks. It thus contributes to the ongoing optimization of anti-terrorist resourcing laws, policies, and risk-management practices.
Initially the study operationalizes some key concepts, then goes on to review efforts to contain terrorist financing by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the UN, and various Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs). It then proposes a shift from the conventional yet strict focus on terrorist financing to broaden the remit to resourcing in an effort to include forms other than cash, such as trade-based fraud. To this effect, the study introduces a five-step approach dubbed the Terrorism Resource Model. Combined with the basic premise of Social Network Analysis that focuses on coding nodes and understanding the nature of the edges that connect these nodes, the following section presents the results of 32 transnational cases of terrorist resourcing. That is the universe of known transnational terrorist resourcing cases for which sufficient data points exist. These cases consist largely of civil and criminal cases. Not all of these cases have been prosecuted; some were settled out of court, some are still winding their way through the courts. There exists obvious selection bias: many of these cases were brought before US courts, several by a specific subset of plaintiffs and law firms. Since not all cases ended up being prosecuted, and since the burden of proof in civil cases is lower than in criminal cases, not all data are equally robust. Nonetheless, these are a good starting point – better, in any event, than the proliferation of anecdotal evidence and single narrative case studies that often rely on conjecture. Although these 32 cases differ markedly, they show surprisingly similar patterns that differ only in scale; they also reveal indicative findings with regards to financial hubs, banks and entities. Following this analysis, the study delves more deeply into three case studies to illustrate the broader findings: in terms of (1) the patterns used to raise and transfer resources, (2) the value-added of broadening the remit from financing to resourcing, and (3) the vexing problem of attribution of the purpose of funds. Finally, the paper capitalized on the findings to offer a preliminary assessment of international and domestic strides on curbing terrorist resourcing.


TSAS WP19-01

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